Pakistan says no clue on fate of Zawahri
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan military said yesterday it had no information about a US media report that Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman Al-Zawahri, might have been critically wounded or possibly killed by a missile attack, though a senior intelligence officer rejected the report. An Al-Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, Abu Khabab Al-Masri, was killed on Monday along with five other people in a suspected US missile strike in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.
A Pakistani Taleban spokesman also denied a US media report that Zawahri might have been killed or wounded in the US missile strike. “Zawahri has been killed by them several times. But once again this claim is wrong. This is baseless,” Maulvi Omar told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The whereabouts of Zawahri and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden have not been known to their enemies since US-led forces waged a campaign to hunt them down in Afghanistan following the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on Sept.11, 2001. Both are believed to hiding somewhere in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
US television network CBS News based its report on a copy of an intercepted letter purportedly written by the leader of Pakistani Taleban, Baitullah Mehsud, requesting a doctor be sent to treat the wounded Zawahri. The letter was written on Tuesday, a day after a US missile strike killed Masri, along with five other people. The letter mentioned Zawahri, who is Egyptian, by name and said he was in severe pain and his injuries were infected. Experts said Mehsud’s signature and seal appeared authentic, CBS said.
The spokesman for Mehsud’s Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan, or Taleban Movement of Pakistan, said Mehsud had not written any letter and Zawahri was nowhere near when the missile struck the house where Masri was staying in the South Waziristan tribal region, bordering Afghanistan.
“Ayman Al-Zawahri was not present there. Ayman Al-Zawahri is neither present in Waziristan nor in Bajaur,” Omar said, referring to another Pakistani tribal region known as a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda militants. A senior Pakistani intelligence officer also rejected suggestions that Zawahri was present when Masri was killed. “It’s absurd,” he told Reuters, adding that the only notable casualty had been Masri. He said Masri’s wife and children had been wounded in the missile strike and were taken for treatment to Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.
A Pakistani military spokesman said he had no information related to the CBS report. CBS said US authorities had said they did not have information whether Zawahri was present or had been wounded in the strike. However, it cited a counterintelligence expert and other US officials as confirming that the United States was looking into reports that Zawahri might have been killed.
Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told a private TV channel yesterday “we just have no knowledge of … Zawahri. He is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan … dead or alive or injured.” “There is no evidence or information in this regard. We have no reliable information,” Abbas said. A top-ranking intelligence officer told Arab News that Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2001 in Tora Bora when he was leading a caravan. “Two caravans left Tora Bora before US Air Force went to drop Daisy Cutters. Osama was heading toward west when his caravan was hit by deadly US bombing,” he said.
During the same time, President Pervez Musharraf told the Newsweek magazine that “my latest information says he suffered from kidney ailment and was in need of regular dialysis.” But thereafter another videotape of Osama appeared